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White House Brands Russia Troop Movement Inside Own Country as 'Aggression' Against Ukraine

© Sputnik / Pavel Gerasimov / Go to the mediabankMilitary exercises in Leningrad Region
Military exercises in Leningrad Region - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.12.2021
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White House spokespserson Jen Psaki said on Thursday that the internal movement of Russian troops into the country's south was "aggression" against Ukraine and the origin of the present crisis.
“The aggression here is on the Russian side, the military buildup is on the Russian side," Psaki told reporters at the White House on Thursday. She was asked about comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier in the day that the situation in Ukraine's eastern Donbass region, where Kiev has fought a seven-year war against several autonomous Russian-speaking cities, resembled a genocide.

“The Russians are known for their rhetorical escalations, as they are also known for their ways of providing misinformation around the world and within eastern flank countries,” Psaki also said.

The presser came just moments after US President Joe Biden finished a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a followup to Biden's Monday phone call with Putin that focused on the deployment of Russian forces in southern Russia.
A White House readout of the call released later on Thursday said Biden "made clear that the US and our Allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of a further military intervention" and "reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity."
"President Biden made clear that the United States and its allies and partners are committed to the principle of 'no decisions or discussions about Ukraine without Ukraine,'" the statement continued. "The leaders called on Russia to de-escalate tensions and agreed that diplomacy is the best way to make meaningful progress on conflict resolution."
After his call with Zelenskyy, Biden also spoek with leaders of the Bucharest Nine, a group of former Soviet republics and former allies in Eastern Europe who are now part of the NATO alliance. Ukraine is not part of NATO, but Zelenskyy has pushed for Brussels to tighten their relationship and cast Kiev's eventual membership as the only peaceful solution to the war in the Donbass.
A readout of the call noted that Biden expressed to the B9 "the United States’ commitment to Transatlantic security and our sacred commitment to NATO’s Article 5," the clause that mandates collective self-defense of all member states.
"The leaders discussed Russia’s destabilizing military buildup along Ukraine’s border and the need for a united, ready, and resolute NATO stance for the collective defense of Allies. President Biden stressed the US commitment to continued close consultation and coordination with all our Transatlantic Allies and partners as we work towards de-escalation of the current crisis through deterrence, defense, and dialogue," the readout said of the B9 call.

The US, Ukraine, and Western press have characterized the deployments as a prelude to an invasion of Ukraine, but similarly to another deployment in April about which the same claims were made, Moscow has rejected claims it's preparing to attack its western neighbor. The troops are not immediately on the Ukrainian border, as commonly claimed, but more than 140 miles from the border.

Biden has pledged full support for Ukraine's sovereignty and promised to levy economic sanctions against Russia sufficient to make it an international pariah if it does attack Ukraine. He rejected "red lines" on Ukraine drawn by Putin, which include the stationing of offensive NATO forces in Ukraine and the further expansion of NATO eastward.

According to Zelenskyy's office, Biden pledged to continue giving Ukraine enough weapons that it could "fight back at any time." They also discussed ways for the US to provide security, financial and political support for Kiev to combat the "ongoing hybrid aggression."

Biden and Zelenskyy further discussed the Minsk Protocol, a 2014 agreement between Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) intended to resolve the Donbass conflict, and ways to overcome the deadlock that has persisted despite periodic attempts to revive it. Zelenskyy reportedly told Biden that he does not support freezing the conflict.
NATO began a new buildup along its eastern flank in 2014, after right-wing nationalist government seized power in Kiev in a US-backed coup and began laying out a program for reducing the country's substantial Russian-speaking minority to second-class status. The Russian-speaking Donbass cities rebelled against the move and Russian-speaking Crimea declared independence, then voted in a referendum to join the Russian Federation. Kiev, the EU and NATO refused to recognize the referendum and have continued to claim Russia illegally and aggressively seized the peninsula. They also claim Russia is giving help to the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics in the Donbass - allegations Moscow has denied.
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